Choosing Your Own World

On Wednesday I attended a book fair at our local community college to represent and sell my books.

I have to tell you that as a writer, these experiences are the worst and the best. The worst being the preparation (packing, finding everything, schlepping it all over there) and then sitting there hoping people will stop at my table. Many people hurry by, averting their eyes, or smiling apologetically, making me feel like a sleezy salesman pushing overpriced, cheap products.

I feel awkward, uncomfortable, ridiculous, and I pretty much always tell myself I’m never doing this again. The handful of sales I’ll make are never worth the time and torture. And really, why do I have to do it? Will it make any difference in the big scheme of things? Will it make or break my ‘success’ as a writer? Probably definitely not.

But then there are moments that remind me of the best part of writing. A little girl, probably 10 or 11, appeared in front of my table with twinkly eyes and a shy smile. “I found you!” she said.

The event had a power point projected on an enormous screen at the end of the room rotating through all 45 authors showing pictures of the author and their books. She’d seen my author picture:

It wasn’t me that drew her eye, it was the puppy I’m holding in my official author photo and the dogs on the covers of two of my books. This bright, confident little person told me all about her dog (a chihuahua-pit bull cross!), how he has been tearing up their carpet lately, how he is the cutest dog ever, how she loves him impossibly and that her dad told her that maybe they can get a cat to keep Henley (the pocket-pitty) company so he doesn’t tear up the carpet. She went on to tell me how much she loves all dogs.

Then she picked up a copy of Another Good Dog and flipped it over to scan the back cover write up. She smiled at me and said, “I’m going to get my mom over here to buy this.” She sifted through the dog trading cards I created to give away at the book signings for 100 Dogs & Counting (on the book tours that never happened. Covid, thank you very much.). She pulled first Thelma’s card (this one looks a lot like Henley), but then she spied Flannery O’Connor’s card and exclaimed, “this looks just like him – he’s all black too!’

We talked more about Henley and some of the other dogs in my books and then her mother happened up the aisle and she dragged her over to meet me and buy her a copy of Another Good Dog (which I signed to her and Henley).

A little while later, another woman stopped at my table to talk about the ‘dog books’ and told me about her 13-year-old daughter who has a huge heart for rescue. She is always pushing dogs on her mom, who says that someday they’ll get another dog, but their current dog is older and wouldn’t necessarily like a young dog bugging him. They do foster cats. So we talked about that challenge for a bit. She also bought a copy of Another Good Dog and a calendar to support Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

As the two hours progressed, I had a handful of other shoppers at my table and sold a few more books. I enjoyed every encounter, talking about books with people who love to read.

But most of the time, I sat there awkwardly, wishing it could be over and trying not to look at my phone so as not to appear bored or distracted, but friendly and happy to be there.

At the end of the night, I packed up and met three other author friends who were also at the book fair for dinner at a local restaurant. Overall, I suppose, it was a really nice evening.

But it’s a fresh reminder that so much of being an author isn’t writing books, it’s selling them. And I hate the selling part. I need to get back to the writing part.

So every day this week, I have sat my butt down in my chair and gotten back to work on a new novel. I’ve dived headfirst back into the world of Celia and Sam and the remnants of their 27 year marriage, their dog Tuckerman, and their two kids Matt and Emily.

It’s good to be writing fiction again. So much of the last two years has been spent writing nonfiction – finishing the hardest book I’ve ever written (which is presently being ‘shopped’ by my agent to publishers, but so far no takers – it’s a really hard sell and I’m going to have to come to terms with that eventually), and launching Who Will Let the Dogs Out, the nonprofit I co-founded and have invested my heart, the major part of most days, and every spare penny into.

At the book fair, in conversation with another author, I was reminded of the joke that writing fiction is the closest we ever come to playing God.

It’s true, there is a power in being in charge of your world—even if it’s just a world on your pages. So much of our world feels out of control at the moment. The papers are full of senseless shootings, a world engaged in or on the verge of war, communities battling over schools and guns and abortion, and around here, the names we give to our public spaces.

Fiction is a refreshing escape. One I intend to find my way back into on a daily basis, whether it’s my own fiction or someone else’s. I think that if everyone spent a little time every day reading fiction, it wouldn’t be a balm for our time.

We need to step back and find perspective and even distraction. Otherwise, the world’s struggles and judgments could zap the joy out of life and the incredible privilege we have to be living right now.

We have a choice. We get to decide how we spend our time and what world we spend it in. I’m trying to make wiser choices, ones that are best for my particular soul. I hope you are choosing what’s best for yours, too.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

My latest novel, Blind Turn is a mother-daughter story of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident. Learn more about it and find out how to get your copy here.

If you’re curious about what else I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my occasional e-newsletter, click here.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

My book, 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

4 thoughts on “Choosing Your Own World”

  1. Yes, being a writer is, sometimes, a job. I’ve convinced myself that it’s a privilege to sit at that boring table hoping someone stops to chat, and maybe, buy a book. It’s also cool to talk to the other writers. Characters are certainly good company, but connecting with people who really do breathe, agonize, and hope is most always worth the schlepping. For me, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

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